Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 21 October 2014

Please screen more local history

Shouldn't we have more local history on local television?

It's a thought that occurs watching William Crawley's superb documentary The Covenant.

First shown on BBC1 NI, then repeated on BBC2, this was an informative, highly watchable account of the lead-up to the mass signing of "the birth certificate of Northern Ireland".

Crawley's style is an engaging mix of accessible and authoritative. True, some of the scenes were a tad odd. During the bit where he recalled the Clyde Valley gun-running episode, as he tramped the fields firing an old German rifle, I was concerned Crawley might trip in a rabbit hole and take out the camera.

It looked more like a bit badger-cull than a re-enactment.

But that was just a small niggle about an otherwise fascinating production. The archive footage from the time was superb. How much more of this stuff lies in the vaults charting the great watersheds in our history? And the characters who helped change the course of it?

In a way The Covenant was just episode 1 in the story of how those who signed up for and drilled for "whatever action necessary" against the British government of the day, were to fall in behind that very government in its hour of need and to go on to their bloody, glorious destiny at the Somme.

Potential there for a follow-up surely. Potential too for documentaries about events leading up to and during the Easter Rising. And after.

And most fascinating of all perhaps, a look at the lives of ordinary people back during one of the most turbulent times in our always turbulent history.

We may think we know it all about our past. But The Covenant shows there is a lot we all can learn about the events that defined our shared history.

More of the same would be great.

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